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17 Dec

TIM ROBERTS: Transition to an electric transport future plus hydrogen

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Some interesting and thought-provoking ideas came from the Experts Panel Session on future transport at the EVShow and Makers Festival last weekend.

The panellists agreed that eventually would catch up with the world on electric cars, but not before charging stations became as commonas petrol stations.James (one of the seven Tesla owners who had their pride and joys on display for all to admire) surprised us all, reporting that it is now possible to circumnavigate in a fully electric car.

Gary brought economics to centre of mind as the reason to migrate from petrol to electric vehicles (EVs), pointing out that we currently spend billions importing fuel: a bleed on our economy, but also strategic risk in the face of any international conflict blockading our oil imports. All agreed that the key advantage of an electric drive chain, after the environmental advantage, is the comparatively minimalmaintenance.

George could see the end of the ICE (internal combustion engine) age, predicting that with the current rate of battery development entry level EVs with a 300km range will be cheaper than entry-level ICE vehicles by 2023. Wongy, who had brought the Hyundai fuel cell hydrogen car to the EVShow, confidently predicted that we would be heading to a hydrogen economy, with hydrogen powered EVs dominating . He saw every household having a solar hydrogen station that not only powered the house but also provided hydrogen for the car.

Such electrolyser systems can generate, store and dispense high-pressure hydrogen gas from water using electricity generated by solar panels. Then the fuel cell generates electricity through combining that hydrogen with oxygen to form water again. A real circular economy using water and the sun to make hydrogen, and then using the hydrogen to remake the water and yield electricity.

Japan, in fact, has plans for using the 2020 Olympic Games to kick-start its hydrogen economy with these domestic units, just as it created the Shinkansen high-speed train system as the legacy of the 1964 Games. Meanwhile we have the highest petrol prices for four years and rising.

Emeritus Professor Tim Roberts, School of Enviromental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle.

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